Thanks to Jack Greenberg’s devotion to justice, millions of Americans have known the freedom to learn and work and vote and live in a country that more faithfully lives up to its founding principle of equality under the law. The son of immigrants who had fled anti-Semitism, he believed that civil rights was a cause for all Americans, regardless of race or circumstances of birth. As a leader of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, he followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and pushed our nation to confront some of our most profound challenges.
Jack served in our Navy at Iwo Jima and Okinawa and then, at just 27 years old, he helped argue the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that desegregated our schools. A decade later, he represented Dr. King in Birmingham Jail. He learned quickly that change would not come overnight — that it would take many generations, more court cases, and nationwide movements to even begin realizing the dream of civil rights for all Americans. But Jack’s calm temperament and intellectual approach to moral arguments perfectly suited him for the fight; he knew, after all, that history was on his side. Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Deborah, his children, and all those who loved him dearly and have benefited from his strong sense of right and wrong.